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Going Paperless in HR… Yes, it IS Really Possible!

hr best practices hr compliance hr department hr essentials hr for small business hr management Aug 23, 2021

Human Resource departments have notoriously been flooded with paper. Whether it’s employment applications, I-9’s, Insurance enrollment forms or separation paperwork. HR people are committed to having actual signatures on documents… and retaining the paper that they were signed on. But technology and laws have evolved and it is perfectly acceptable to keep electronic copies of signed documents, as well as collect electronic signatures, eliminating the need for paper at all.

HR administrators with processes and policies of document retention often spout stories of a time a document was lost or a mistake was made and there was no “proof” to back up the actual situation. But the world has changed! According to a survey of Society of Human Resource Management (SHRM), 77 percent of HR Departments have gone paperless. These HR professionals report spending 35 percent less time on HR administration – leaving time for critical business relationship building and strategic initiatives to be developed.  If you haven’t gone paperless, now is the time!

A primary advantage of using technology to store data is the advent of SAAS – Software as a Service. This is the term for utilizing a vendor who retains control of the software system and stores your data in the cloud. This eliminates the need for the days of complex implementation, purchasing enough computing power to run complex programs and worrying about the security of data. With a SAAS solution, you can access your data from anywhere and the vendor takes care of the programming issues.  They help manage and monitor security issues, and when there is a problem they put their entire organization on fixing it quickly.

As organizations are becoming more nimble and focused on cutting costs, going paperless also reduces space and increases confidence with compliance obligations. As quoted in a recent SHRM article on going paperless, 50 percent of HR professionals who have paper driven processes feel they are in compliance with all obligations and can produce documentation if requested. This is in contrast with 70 percent of the paperless HR offices who are certain they would be able to produce documents as required. Leaders feel with digital HR documentation it is easier to evaluate and monitor compliance of a large team quickly.

In a recent Towers Watson survey, 74 percent of HR leaders report moving to an electronic performance management system. There are numerous systems that will document ongoing conversations between employee and manager digitally, and retain the documentation for the future. Systems allow for a two-way discussion to be documented, easily tracking goals and objectives and the capture of an electronic signature. One benefit I have always found helpful in digital reviews is the ability for managers to review the information throughout the year, without having to bother HR to pull the review from the file, copy and refile!

Change is never easy – but going paperless is here to stay. There is no reason to generate paper that only has to be printed, compiled, filed and found when needed. The vast majority of our employees are comfortable with technology and completing forms online. Consider the technology options in front of you the next time you decide to create a form to be used in your organization.

Don’t try to figure it out yourself.  Talk to other HR Professionals about how they have handled the challenge.  You can find those that have tacked the topic in your SHRM chapters, vendor meetings or our own membership community!

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